Consumers use a private VPN service, also known as a VPN tunnel, to protect their online activity and identity. By using an anonymous VPN service, a user's Internet traffic and data remain encrypted, which prevents eavesdroppers from sniffing Internet activity. VPN services are especially useful when accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots because the public wireless services might not be secure. In addition to public Wi-Fi security, a private VPN service also provides consumers with uncensored Internet access and can help prevent data theft and unblock websites.
As part of our research, we also make sure to find out where the company is based and under what legal framework it operates. Some countries don't have data-retention laws, making it easier to keep a promise of "We don't keep any logs." It's also useful to know under what circumstances a VPN company will hand over information to law enforcement and what information it would have to provide if that should happen.
We didn’t audit any VPN services ourselves (though IVPN, our top pick, offered to arrange such an exercise), but we did ask detailed questions about each service’s operations as a way to judge whether a company was acting in good faith. Good faith is important, because there aren’t many avenues to penalize a VPN company that isn’t following through on its promises. In the US, companies making false claims about their products are policed by the Federal Trade Commission, and to some extent state attorneys general. Joseph Jerome at CDT told us that companies violating their own privacy policy or claims about logging would be “a textbook example of a deceptive practice under state and federal consumer protection laws,” and in theory, “the FTC could seek an injunction barring the deceptive practice as well as potentially getting restitution or other monetary relief.”
Put simply, a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a group of computers (or discrete networks) networked together over a public network—namely, the internet. Businesses use VPNs to connect remote datacenters, and individuals can use VPNs to get access to network resources when they’re not physically on the same LAN (local area network), or as a method for securing and encrypting their communications when they’re using an untrusted public network. Photo by Pavel Ignatov (Shutterstock).
These services offer many ways to connect, including without the service's client software; support operating systems and devices, such as routers or set-top boxes, beyond just the "big four" operating systems (Windows, Mac, Android and iOS); have hundreds, or even thousands, of servers in dozens of countries; and generally let the user sign up and pay anonymously.
Individuals that access the internet from a computer, tablet or smartphone will benefit from using a VPN. A VPN service will always boost your security by encrypting and anonymizing all of your online activity. Therefore, both private and business users can benefit from using a VPN. Communications that happen between the VPN server and your device are encrypted, so a hacker or website spying on you wouldn't know which web pages you access. They also won't be able to see private information like passwords, usernames and bank or shopping details and so on. Anyone that wants to protect their privacy and security online should use a VPN.

OpenVPN: OpenVPN is very secure, open-source and widely used. Most VPN services support it, but except for Chrome OS and Linux, few operating systems do. This protocol can be used in either TCP (web) or UDP (streaming) mode; the latter is sloppier but faster. You'll need either the VPN service's client software or one of the many free alternatives. Either way, you'll still need to pay for the VPN service.


IPVanish is one of the few providers that owns and operates its own network of servers, rather than rents servers out from third parties. This guarantees customers a sturdy, uncongested connection and better privacy. The IPVanish apps include an auto-select feature that connects you to the fastest available server in a given country or city. You can monitor upload and download speed in real time. Traffic is protected by 256-bit AES encryption, and a zero logs policy ensures that no usage data is ever recorded. A single subscription allows users to connect up to five devices at once. IPVanish is particularly popular with Kodi users due to its fast speeds, great privacy features and because it is easy to install on most devices popular with Kodi users including the Amazon Fire Stick.
For local VPN issues, you have a couple of options. First, consider installing VPN software on your router and not using a VPN on your local machines. Alternatively, many VPN services offer browser plug-ins that only encrypt your browser traffic. That's not ideal from a security perspective, but it's useful when all you need to secure is your browser information.
You heard us right on that last bit: a number of VPN providers have systems in place where they will accept gift cards from major retailers (that are totally unrelated to their business) like Wal-Mart or Target in exchange for VPN credit. You could buy a gift card to any number of big box stores using cash, redeem it for VPN credit, and avoid using your personal credit card or checking information.
Final Verdict – PIA is a reliable VPN service that only uses physical servers in its VPN network. It does not make any exaggerated claims of its qualities and clearly describes its policies and features. Moreover, the low price is another positive attribute of the VPN. In a nutshell, PIA is a VPN you can trust, though it is not an ideal VPN for torrenting.
When we test VPNs, we try to get a sense for the impact a service has on internet performance by finding a percentage change between using the VPN and not using the VPN for several speed measurements. First, we run several tests without the VPN active, discard the highest and lowest results, and find the average of what remains. This is our baseline. We then do the same thing, but with the VPN active.
In some organization intranets, the data of a department, such as human resources, is so sensitive that the network segment of the department is physically disconnected from the rest of the intranet. While this protects the data of the human resources department, it creates information accessibility problems for authorized users not physically connected to the separate network segment.
Every user is going to have slightly different VPN needs, and the best way to pick the ideal VPN service is to take careful stock of what your needs are before you go shopping. You may even find you don’t need to go shopping because home-grown or router-based solutions you already have are a perfect fit. Let’s run through a series of questions you should ask yourself and highlight how different VPN features meet the needs highlighted by those questions.
PPTP assumes the availability of an IP network between a PPTP client (a VPN client using the PPTP tunneling protocol) and a PPTP server (a VPN server using the PPTP tunneling protocol). The PPTP client might already be attached to an IP network that can reach the PPTP server, or the PPTP client might have to use a dial-up connection to a NAS to establish IP connectivity as in the case of dial-up Internet users.
HTTPS is a powerful tool that everyone should use because it helps keep sensitive browsing private at no extra cost to the people using it. But like most security standards, it has its own problems too. That little lock icon in your browser bar, which indicates the HTTPS connection, relies on a certificate “signed” by a recognized authority. But there are hundreds of such authorities, and as the EFF says, “the security of HTTPS is only as strong as the practices of the least trustworthy/competent CA [certificate authorities].” Plus, there have been plenty of news stories covering minor and even major vulnerabilities in the system. Some security professionals have worried about those least-competent authorities, spurring groups to improve on the certificate standards and prompting browsers to add warnings when you come across certificates and sites that don’t withstand scrutiny. So HTTPS is good—but like anything, it isn’t perfect.
What that means in practice is that VPNs are fine for bypassing geo-blocks, for protecting your online banking and for keeping business communications free from interception. However, if you’re using the internet to fight repressive regimes or to do anything else that could attract the attention of the authorities where you live, a VPN is not a magic wand that’ll make you invisible.
Cost: This VPN service comes in three plans: Basic, Pro, and Premier, any of which can be purchased on a six month, one year, two-year, or three-year basis. The premier plan is $5.83 /month if you pay all 36 months up front, the professional plan is $4.44/month if you buy all three years at once, and the basic plan is $3.06/month for three years. Basic also lets you pay monthly, for $5.99/month.

Ideally, every VPN service provider would subject itself to independent audits to verify that it logs and operates as it claims. Right now, audits aren’t common practice in the VPN industry, though there’s a push to change that. Joseph Jerome, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told us about that group’s efforts to bring transparency to the VPN industry: “We would like to see security audits released publicly so security researchers can review them and attest to their veracity, as well as learn from the issues being identified.” The few companies we found that currently performed these types of audits had other dismissal-worthy failings, despite their valiant efforts toward transparency. And while such reports may increase your confidence when you’re shopping, there’s no guarantee that an audit makes a VPN service trustworthy: In other industries, conflicts of interest have led auditors and rating agencies (PDF) to miss or ignore major problems.
ExpressVPN   has 148 locations in 94 different countries which means you can dial your IP address into 148 locations around the world. ExpressVPN delivers great performance - and it’s put the effort into its software too, with dedicated apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and BlackBerry as well as some Smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV Sticks, Apple TV, PS4 and Xbox and even your router. Not only that but there are solid online tutorials too, so even if VPNs are dark magic to you they’ll have you up and running in no time. P2P is fully supported and it's super speedy so you can torrent using the maximum bandwidth of your broadband connection and there’s a kill switch that keeps your IP address hidden if anything goes wrong with the VPN or with your internet connection. ExpressVPN is reasonably priced, delivers a good service and has support for three simultaneous connections. There’s no free trial available but there is a no-fuss 30-day money back guarantee if the service doesn’t meet your requirements so that's a good way to test it out if you're unsure. We have used the 24/7 customer service a number of times and can vouch for its effectiveness - we had a couple of issues with using the service on a PC and were able to sort it within a few minutes using the instant online chat support.
One popular technology to accomplish these goals is a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN is a private network that uses a public network (usually the Internet) to connect remote sites or users together. The VPN uses "virtual" connections routed through the Internet from the business's private network to the remote site or employee. By using a VPN, businesses ensure security -- anyone intercepting the encrypted data can't read it.
The free version is only available on Chrome and is bandwidth-restricted. It’s not as useful if you watch a lot of Netflix or you’re thinking about cutting the cord Considering Canceling Cable? The True Cost of Cutting the Cord Considering Canceling Cable? The True Cost of Cutting the Cord When you add everything up, do you really save money by cutting the cord? We do the math involved with cancelling cable in favor of Internet services. Read More .
Logging Policy – The privacy policy of ZenMate is not quite convincing from the point of view of the user. For instance, it claims that it collects personal data of users in various forms, including timestamps. This leaves the privacy of users vulnerable through a time-correlation attack. Moreover, the privacy policy is extremely lengthy and complicated, which further raises alarms as to the credibility of the claims of ZenMate as a zero-logging VPN.
The cause of this performance improvement was not immediately discernible. Experts I have spoken to have suggested the test cheating or data compression mentioned above. It was also suggested that, perhaps, some VPN companies had access to higher bandwidth connections in their networks. Another possibility was that our DSL line was artificially capped and that the VPN allowed our data to bypass that restriction.
Authentication that occurs during the creation of a PPTP-based VPN connection uses the same authentication mechanisms as PPP connections, such as Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), Microsoft Challenge-Handshake Authentication Protocol (MS-CHAP), Microsoft Challenge-Handshake Authentication Protocol version 2 (MS-CHAP v2), CHAP, Shiva Password Authentication Protocol (SPAP), and Password Authentication Protocol (PAP). PPTP inherits encryption, compression, or both of PPP payloads from PPP. For PPTP connections, EAP-Transport Layer Security (EAP-TLS), MS-CHAP, or MS-CHAP v2 must be used for the PPP payloads to be encrypted using Microsoft Point-to-Point Encryption (MPPE).
Recall that when you're online and connected to an internet application through a VPN, there are a few things happening: Your data from your computer to the VPN service is encrypted by the VPN. Your data from the VPN service to the internet application may or may not be encrypted via https, but it's not encrypted by the VPN service. And your IP address is spoofed. The online application sees the IP address of the VPN service, not of your laptop.
Hotspot Shield depends on a custom VPN protocol that's not been publicly analyzed by independent experts. We don't know how private or secure it really is. The company has been accused of spying on users (it denies the allegations), and complaints abound online about Hotspot Shield software installing on PCs without users' permission. All this, and the company's U.S. location, may scare away customers who want to protect their privacy.

IP / DNS leak test – IPVanish does not suffer from any DNS or IP leak problems. This is a sign of the strong security and encryption protocols that IPVanish uses. As such, you can download torrents through IPVanish and rest assured that your IP won’t be leaked. However, in spite of the solid security, I still wouldn’t recommend going the torrent route with IPVanish for reasons highlighted below.
Hotspot Shield depends on a custom VPN protocol that's not been publicly analyzed by independent experts. We don't know how private or secure it really is. The company has been accused of spying on users (it denies the allegations), and complaints abound online about Hotspot Shield software installing on PCs without users' permission. All this, and the company's U.S. location, may scare away customers who want to protect their privacy.
Of course, there are more than just phones and computers in a home. Game systems, tablets, and smart home devices such as light bulbs and fridges all need to connect to the internet. Many of these things can't run VPN software on their own, nor can they be configured to connect to a VPN through their individual settings. In these cases, you may be better off configuring your router to connect with the VPN of your choice. By adding VPN protection to your router, you secure the traffic of every gadget connected to that router. And the router—and everything protected by it—uses just one of your licenses. Nearly all of the companies we have reviewed offer software for most consumer routers and even routers with preinstalled VPN software, making it even easier to add this level of protection.
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